Heading back to Brazil in October 2018, we arrived with the hope of meeting some quality focussed producers and find some exciting coffees to work with this year. Travelling with Morten from Nordic Approach and Natalia from Cafebras, we were introduced to the very informed, enthusiastic and passionate André Luíz Garcia. Driving us between Fazenda Jaguara and Fazenda Santa Lúcia, two of the family farms that he manages, André was telling us about his work as an agronomy researcher for Fundacão Procafé between bouts of singing along to the Pink Floyd blasting on his car stereo.
A lot of the work at Jaguara and Santa Lúcia is focussed on maximising tree health to improve yields. Through introducing more organic fertilisers (coffee pulp and chicken manure being the main players), minimising the use of agro-chemicals, manually clearing weeds and plant matter from the base of the trees and pruning techniques that allow for more uniform cherry ripening, they’re developing a more holistic approach to working with coffee. As well as the Acaia and Yellow Catuaí varieties planted on Fazenda Santa Lúcia, the Garcias have 34,000 Arara seedlings in their nursery. This variety (which translates as ‘Parrot’) has been developed at Procafé and supposedly offers the sought-after combination of immunity to leaf rust as well as the potential for great cup quality.
The different blocks on the farm receive different amounts of sun, and they have experimented with planting shade trees on the sunnier plots. The shaded trees didn’t bear as much fruit during these experiments, mainly as the trees competed for water, but Andre was explaining how the root system of banana trees doesn’t compete in the same way, and they may be a viable option moving ahead. They also focus a lot on pruning back the trees that have a high yield one year so that they get a full rest the following year. Some varieties on the farm ripen later than others, and by planting the blocks in a particular way they’re able to better plan the harvest, for example, Yellow Catuaí 74 is more slowly maturing, meaning they will leave it for longer before taking the mechanical harvesters through those blocks. Initially, they harvest by hand, and then when the fruit set is mostly ripe and ready they use mechanical harvesters on a low vibration setting, to leave the greener fruit on the branches to continue ripening, rather than just stripping everything off. They then float the harvested cherry to remove the inevitable portion of unripe fruit that gets mixed in. The farm manager Diquinho has another ten full-time employees working on the farm year-round, who receive a secondary bonus payment when the coffee they all work to produce is sold as specialty grade.
After experimenting with patios, greenhouses, shaded coverings and using mechanical dryers, they have figured out that small differences in the preparation of their naturals can result in big differences in the cup. The coffee is first spread on patios in layers around 3cm deep. They turn it over once in the morning and once in the afternoon. After two to three days the cherry skin has toughened up and is less prone to breaking, which can lead to mouldy flavours being introduced. After a couple of weeks, they begin to heap up the coffee into a large pyramid so that it keeps the residual heat of the day in the pile overnight, which helps get the moisture down to a safe level. Once the coffee has achieved a proper moisture level it spends thirty days in wooden sided silos to homogenise and stabilise the moisture.
We hope you enjoy this creamy and layered coffee from André & Natalia, and all the hard workers at Fazenda Santa Lúcia.
Três Corações, Minas Gerais, Brazil
A soft, round espresso with comforting notes of white chocolate, honeycomb and dried papaya. In milk it reminds us of caramel ice cream.